Programmatic marketing is still a relatively new discipline and many brands remain unsure about the best approach to take. The ultimate goal is to serve ads to consumers in a more targeted, timely and efficient manner, yet there are big variations in the automated technology used to do this, and in the way results are measured and quantified.
Client-side marketers must choose from a dizzying array of agencies and solutions that claim to provide the best programmatic services. They must also decide on what they want to achieve with the money they spend on programmatic, and on the metrics that they use to track return on investment (ROI).
For example, home furnishings retailer ScS seeks to measure the effect of its programmatic marketing on not just its online business, but also its in-store footfall and sales. Working with Epiphany, a search agency owned by Jaywing, the retailer brought together various different data strands in order to target customers at times when they were most likely to visit their local store.
This includes programmatic data supplied by MediaIQ, Google Analytics web traffic data, store visitor data and the ScS internal sales database. These data points were combined with GPS data to enable ad targeting according to customer location, including on their mobile devices.
“Perhaps our online data can provide the information necessary to help personalise our in-store service,”
Sarah Oldroyd, head of digital, ScS
ScS ran product offers and location-based messaging on social platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as on the wider display network. It also worked with tech firm Zapp360 to run a scrolling ticker-tape-style text ad unit at the bottom of device screens.
Between March and June this year, the campaign achieved a 57% increase in store footfall compared with the same period in 2015. Mobile location tracking was used to estimate as closely as possible the number of store visits for the duration of the programmatic campaign. This estimate was weighted against in-store transactions and the online effect of the campaign, measured by clicks and impressions.
Sarah Oldroyd, head of digital at ScS, says that the majority of the retailer’s sales come from physical stores, rather than online. As a result, the company continually looks for new ways to link its digital investments – including its programmatic spend – to in-store activity.
“We often find that customers who have looked at our website before they set foot in a physical store are better informed, and often have a [rough] shortlist of products to view, which makes the in-store sales process more engaging for our staff too,” she says.
“In the future we expect this trend to only increase, with more customers turning to online to research big-ticket items before heading to the retail park, and perhaps our online data can provide the information necessary to help personalise our in-store service as a result.”
Rethinking the audience
Other brands are thinking in more detail about how their audience interacts with different forms of advertising. Online travel agent Expedia is working with programmatic agency Infectious Media on a new audience measurement model that aims to attach more importance to ad viewability, rather than just impressions.
This model is based on the assumption that there is a baseline of customer conversions that would have happened anyway. This means that a certain proportion of the people that a brand advertises to would have made a purchase, regardless of whether they saw the ad, so these people should be discounted from any analysis of programmatic ROI.
These people are identified using A/B testing and other forms of empirical evidence taken directly from the brand website. In the case of Expedia, converting customers who saw an ad are separated from converters who did not, with the latter forming a control group. Expedia tracks the uplift in conversions of those who saw an ad against this control group, allowing it to make incremental changes to a campaign and further monitor the effect.
“Using this incremental measurement methodology means we can confidently prove the above baseline ROI being delivered from our programmatic display efforts,” claims Rory Paterson, global head of programmatic and martech at Expedia. “We regularly validate the model and look at ways of evolving it to increase our optimisation opportunities.”
He adds that “ongoing media and technology fragmentation” is one of the big challenges facing Expedia when it comes to programmatic. As a result of working with Infectious Media on this strategy, Expedia reports that its incremental cost per customer acquisition (CPA) fell by more than 50% in the first six months.
“We can confidently prove the above baseline ROI being delivered from our programmatic display efforts,”
Rory Paterson, global head of programmatic and martech, Expedia
“The ability to track incremental ROI of users who see an ad on one device and convert on another is a hot topic in the travel sector, as it is in others,” says Paterson. “Finding ways to capture the required cross-device data across platforms, then deliver empirical evidence to support investment cases, is just one example of something we are looking to solve.”
Some brands track the success of their programmatic campaigns by setting tight targets that they aim to hit or exceed. NEST, the workplace pension scheme set up by the Government, ran a campaign from June 2015 to March 2016 aimed at encouraging small businesses to sign up to its auto-enrolment service. Working with programmatic agency Addition+, NEST targeted business decision makers in companies of one to 49 employees, including managing directors and HR directors.
As a Government body, NEST holds large amounts of data and insight on UK businesses. The campaign involved using this first-party data to target decision makers at scale online, including on B2B trade media websites. This programmatic activity was supported with print and radio advertising in order to raise awareness of the NEST brand further.
Close cost controls were put in place to ensure the campaign delivered value for money and that success was measured against these targets. For example, the campaign delivered 303% more sign-ups versus its target and just 85% of the available budget. Cost efficiency also dramatically improved, with the final average CPA falling by over 72% against the target.
“We are using data and insight to inform and create intelligent campaigns focused on the needs of employers and small business owners,”
Ranila Ravi-Burslem, director of marketing strategy and planning, NEST
“Through this programme it’s critical we reach out to the 1.8 million employers across the UK who might be choosing a workplace pension scheme over the coming years,” says Ranila Ravi-Burslem, NEST’s director of marketing strategy and planning. “To achieve that we are using data and insight to inform and create intelligent campaigns focused on the needs of employers and small business owners.”
Other programmatic campaigns measure their success by their ability to re-engage potential customers who may have previously expressed an interest in a brand. BuildDirect, a home improvement website based in Canada, used video pre-roll advertising and a retargeting strategy to leverage display banners aimed at reaching both new customers and high value website visitors who did not initially convert.
Working with performance advertising company SourceKnowledge, BuildDirect segmented its audience based on where they were in the buying process, including the first piece of creative they had been exposed to and the product category they were interested in. Video pre-roll was tailored around these different product areas, while banner ads were used to re-target customers who had seen the videos. The creative assets were also adjusted to improve their performance using real-time campaign data.
The campaign achieved an uplift of 490% on its margin on advertising spend and an 8% improvement in average order value compared to its work with other prospecting and remarketing partners. Digital acquisition manager Michael Kwon states that as a relatively young company, it is important for BuildDirect to continually find ways of driving value for money from its programmatic spend.
“Being in a growth stage, not every tactic or channel must return a profit [for us] but the ones that are profitable and drive scalable volume are the ones you want to invest in and build stronger partnerships with,” he says.
Marketing Week and Econsultancy’s Get with the Programmatic conference takes place on 21 September. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.